أَلَا فِي الْفِتْنَةِ سَقَطُوا
Alā fil-fitnati saqatū
Nay, they have already fallen into temptation
(Sūrat al-Tawba No 9, Āyat 49).
When human beings want to excuse themselves from a responsibility, they will justify it in whatever way they can. They can concoct a false righteousness for their actions. The cause of revelation for this verse is one such example. Jad bin Qays came to the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam to excuse himself from the battle of Tabuk, citing his vulnerability to the beautiful women of the Romans. He was afraid, he said, of being tempted by their attractiveness and failing to adhere to God’s laws.
The hypocrisy of the excuse was not lost on the Muslims. God revealed this verse saying that he was asking to be excused from temptation and trial, but he was already deep into it. He and the likes of him were drowning in disobedience while excusing themselves on the pretext of not wanting to displease God. They were already surrounded on all sides with what they claimed to be fearing – the wrath of Allah ‘azza wajall.
One of the ways of recognizing hypocrites is to listen to the false excuses they make. Their words have no solid foundation and reveal the depths of their insincerity. They hold on to parts of an issue and stretch them, rather than taking hold of the whole picture. Thus, while claiming to be adherents and supporters of religion, they destroy its principles.
Sometimes a person may justify his wrongdoings and excuses even to himself, convincing the self that what is being done, or not being done, is right in that situation. This could be a form of hypocrisy with God about which the Quran says: They desire to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive (Q 2:9). It is an attempt to stifle the conscience through false reasoning. Intelligence is channeled into devising strange but seemingly right reasons for the action. Such hypocrisy when practiced regularly becomes an intrinsic part of one’s nature, and is a barrier to any growth in faith and perfection. It is a dangerous disease which is often undetected, even by the patient himself.
Hypocrisy is common in society, seeping into all areas of human interaction. It is necessary to be alert to its signs, within oneself as well as in others. The following beautiful Hadith of Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn ‘alayhis salām gives 10 signs of a hypocrite. They are:
1) Forbids what he does not keep away from (himself)
2) Orders what he does not perform
3) When he stands to the Salāt, he raises objections (i.e. turns away).
4) When he performs Rukū‘, he crouches
5) In the evening he thinks of the dinner although he did not fast
6) In the morning he thinks of the sleep although he did not stay awake worshiping at night.
7) If he were to narrate to you, he would lie
8) If you were to entrust him, he would betray you
9) If you are absent, he would backbite you
10) If he makes a promise to you, he will break it
(Al-Kāfī, Chapter 168, H. 29,)
Let this verse remind you of Allah’s rebuke to those who claim pretentious reasons for their actions. It is a sign that they have waded deep into hypocrisy and disbelief. May Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā protect us form such spiritual sikness!
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nur; Muhammad Ray Shahrī, Mīzān al-Hikmah.